CEO 87-26 -- April 23, 1987
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
PORT COMMISSIONER OWNING TRAVEL AGENCY
DOING BUSINESS WITH PORT
To: Mr. Benson B. Murphy, Executive Director, Port of Palm Beach, Riviera Beach
A prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a port commissioner to own a travel agency which makes travel arrangements for officials and employees of the port traveling on official business, as Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, prohibits a public officer from doing business with his agency. However, Section 112.313(12)(f), Florida Statutes, creates an exemption where the total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500. CEO's 86-80 and 87-2 are referenced.
Would a prohibited conflict of interest be created under the Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees were a port commissioner's travel agency to make travel arrangements for port officials and staff traveling on official business?
Your question is answered in the affirmative, subject to the exception noted below.
In your letter of inquiry you advise that Linda S. Weiss recently was elected as a Commissioner of the Port of Palm Beach and is the owner of a travel agency. For several years another Commissioner has purchased air travel, hotel reservations, and other services from this agency when traveling on Port-related business. The Port has also purchased air travel for staff from the travel agency in the past. Port Commissioners and staff traveling on official business are personally responsible for paying their travel expenses, which are reimbursed to these individuals by the Port. You question whether a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were the subject Commissioner to purchase travel services from her own travel agency when traveling on Port business, and whether the other Commissioner may continue to purchase his Port travel services from this agency.
The Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees provides in relevant part:
DOING BUSINESS WITH ONE'S AGENCY. -- No employee of an agency acting in his official capacity as a purchasing agent, or public officer acting in his official capacity, shall either directly or indirectly purchase, rent, or lease any realty, goods, or services for his own agency from any business entity of which he or his spouse or child is an officer, partner, director, or proprietor or in which such officer or employee or his spouse or child, or any combination of them, has a material interest. Nor shall a public officer or employee, acting in a private capacity, rent, lease, or sell any realty, goods, or services to his own agency, if he is a state officer or employee, or to any political subdivision or any agency thereof, if he is serving as an officer or employee of that political subdivision. The foregoing shall not apply to district offices maintained by legislators when such offices are located in the legislator's place of business. This subsection shall not affect or be construed to prohibit contracts entered into prior to:
(a) October 1, 1975.
(b) Qualification for elective office.
(c) Appointment to public office.
(d) Beginning public employment.
[Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes (1985).]
This provision prevents a public officer from owning a business which is doing business with his public agency. Therefore, the Port Commissioner's travel agency would be prohibited from making travel arrangements for Commissioners and staff traveling on official business. See CEO 87-2.
Nevertheless, the Code of Ethics contains several exceptions to Section 112.313(3), Florida Statutes, including an exemption where:
The total amount of the subject transaction does not exceed $500. [Section 112.313(12)(f), Florida Statutes (1985).]
This provision has been interpreted to exempt a single transaction in an amount not exceeding $500. See CEO 86-80.
Accordingly, we find that a prohibited conflict of interest would be created were a Port Commissioner's travel agency to make travel arrangements for Port officials and employees traveling on official business, except to the extent that the total amount of a particular transaction does not exceed $500.